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Minot Vet Center serves combat veterans

Understanding, counseling

Ric Gutierrez is an outreach specialist at the Minot Vet Center. As such, he is tasked with finding and meeting combat veterans and introducing them to services available at the Vet Center.

“That’s what we do. We provide counseling to our combat vets,” said Gutierrez. “Individual, group and family counseling. Our services are at no cost, 100% free and that includes family members.”

Vet Centers were established in 1979 by Vietnam veterans, but services provided are for war zone veterans of all eras.

“When veterans come into our office we want it to be like home,” explained Gutierrez. “We don’t bother them. We have a quick chat with them. We all have hard shells. We’re very patient with the vets. We know they’re not going to tell us everything right away. It takes time and I think our counselors do a wonderful job with that.”

Understanding what war zone veterans have experienced, what effect those experiences have had on them, and being able to relate to them is an important part of Gutierrez’s job and the expert staff at the Vet Center. More than half the staff at the Vet Center are combat veterans, including Gutierrez.

“We can kind of relate to combat veterans. We know what they are going through,” said Gutierrez.

Gutierrez had a 13-year career in the Air Force, including deployment with military police who provided security for aircraft during the war in Bosnia in 1999. Now he is devoted to helping fellow veterans who may be struggling with the lingering mental effects of serving in a combat zone.

“Our mission is the best. That is what I love the most,” stated Gutierrez. “We want to go out and help the vet that needs help. My goal is to go to the rural areas and find that vet.”

Gutierrez added that he will “go anywhere to get information out there.” He has a large area to roam. The Minot Vet Center serves a region from Bottineau to Belcourt to the west side of Devils Lake to Washburn to Watford City. Stressing that he is not a counselor, Gutierrez says he has heard similar stories from veterans who were deployed in various theaters of combat. He said the stories are “similar to an extent and different.”

It is the counselors at the Vet Center that provide valuable assistance to veterans with any mental health issues they may have and, remarked Gutierrez, “our counselors are really amazing. I speak highly of them. They are great.”

Those counselors are Heidi Miller, Shone Topham and Allison Schuetz. Their compassionate services are completely free for war zone veterans.

“You can’t beat it and once you are with the Vet Center you are with the Vet Center for life,” explained Gutierrez. “They can come and go as they please but we have continuous services for the vets.”

Currently the Vet Center is operating with some COVID restrictions in place, such as masking and taking the temperature of all people entering. Coronavirus has restricted some activities, such as group painting and yoga, but anyone seeking assistance from the Vet Center is encouraged to call them at 852-0177.

“We’re open to all veterans and active duty at no cost as well,” remarked Gutierrez. “We’re growing and there is a need.”

The Vet Center is located at 3300 S. Broadway in Minot.

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